Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Mass Communications

Major Professor

Dr. Kelli Burns, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Dr. Deborah Bowen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Dr. Travis Bell, Ph.D.


digital communications, social media, brand management, sport management


The sports industry is massive, bolstered by its relationship with media. A recent development in the sport industry is the advent of social media, which offers the potential for two-way communication between sports organizations and their relevant stakeholders. Relationship management theory helps cultivate an understanding of social media as a vehicle for value creation for an organization and its stakeholders. This thesis is a content analysis of relationship communications strategies on Twitter using the accounts of five National Hockey League teams.

This study builds upon existing literature by identifying stakeholder groups targeted on Twitter by NHL teams, defining subcategories in relationship management communications, and comparing the strategies and tactics used among five NHL teams. Results indicate that players are the most common internal stakeholder identified within this study, while sponsors are the most popular external stakeholder. Interactivity is not a major driver of social media content, but when teams do contribute to some form of interaction, they are most likely to place a mention of a stakeholder or stakeholder group within a tweet. Among relationship management communications strategies, NHL Twitter accounts most often provide announcements directly related to team performance. Engagement metrics show that team promotions receive the greatest number of replies and retweets. Four out of five NHL teams in this study are very similar with their use of relationship management communications strategies and identification of relevant stakeholders. In this sample, the San Jose Sharks account differs the most from the other teams in this study, emphasizing fan interaction and brand personification the most compared to the other teams in this study. Overall, this thesis contributes to knowledge about social media in the sports industry by providing an in-depth look at the stakeholders and communications strategies identified among NHL teams on Twitter.